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Odessey and Oracle is the second studio album by the English rock band The Zombies. It was originally released in April 1968, on the label CBS. The album was recorded over a period of three months between June and August 1967, in sessions that took place at Abbey Road and Olympic Studios, in London. "Time of the Season" was released as a single and became a surprise hit in early 1969.

The album was received indifferently on release, but has since become critically acclaimed. It ranked number 100 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[4]

Recording and production[]

Odessey and Oracle was recorded in 1967 after The Zombies signed a recording contact with the CBS label. They began work on the album in June 1967. Nine of the twelve songs were recorded at EMI's Abbey Road Studios. "Friends of Mine" was recorded on 1 June, "A Rose for Emily" was started on 1 June and completed on 10 July (take 5 reduction of take 3), "This Will Be Our Year" was recorded on 2 June (take 4) and 15 August (horn overdub), "Hung Up on a Dream" was recorded on 10-11 July (take 7 reduction of take 3), and "Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)" was recorded on 20 July (take 1). In late July, when Abbey Road was unavailable, The Zombies temporarily shifted base to Olympic Studios where they recorded "Beechwood Park", "Maybe After He's Gone" and "I Want Her, She Wants Me". They returned to Abbey Road Studios in mid-August to record "Care of Cell 44" (take 5 reduction of take 4) and "Brief Candles" (take 10 reduction of take 9) on 16-17 August and "Time of the Season" (August, date unknown). The sessions ended in November and the final track to be recorded was "Changes" (take 5) on 7 November 1967.[5][6]

Because the album was recorded to a tight budget and deadline, The Zombies worked quickly in the studio, having rehearsed rigorously beforehand. This meant that there would be no outtakes or unused songs recorded during the sessions. Cello and Mellotron parts were added to "A Rose for Emily" but discarded at the final mixing stage.

Colin Blunstone and Paul Atkinson felt disillusioned and tempers flared during the recording of "Time of the Season". Blunstone was not at all keen on the song. When writer Rod Argent insisted that he sing it a certain way, Blunstone's patience snapped and he effectively told Argent to sing it himself.[7] Blunstone finally sang the vocal as required.

The album was recorded using a Studer four track machine, the same tape machine used on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.[8] Argent and Chris White mixed the album down into mono, but when they handed the master to CBS, they were informed that a stereo mix was required. The recording budget having been spent, Argent and White used their own money to pay for the stereo mix. One major problem arose when it came time to mix "This Will Be Our Year" into stereo. The Zombies' original producer Ken Jones had dubbed live horn parts directly onto the mono mix. With the horns not having been recorded on the multi-track beforehand, a faked stereo mix had to be made of the mono master. The stereo mix was completed on 1 January 1968.[citation needed]

Morale within the band was at a low point at the end of the recording. Two singles, "Care of Cell 44" and "Friends of Mine", had been unsuccessful, and the band had a declining demand for live appearances, so after a final gig in mid-December 1967, the band split up.[9]

Album sleeve[]

The album sleeve contains a short text written by keyboardist Argent quoting William Shakespeare's The Tempest.[10] The misspelling of "odyssey" in the title was the result of a mistake by the designer of the LP cover, Terry Quirk (who was a friend of bassist Chris White).[11] The band tried to cover this up at the time of release by claiming the misspelling was intentional.[11]

Other versions[]

For the 1997 Zombie Heaven box-set, "This Will Be Our Year" was given a full stereo mix, albeit minus the horns. This was made possible because The Zombies owned the multi track masters, which are in the possession of Chris White. Alternate mixes of "A Rose for Emily", featuring discarded overdubs of cello and Mellotron, appear on Zombie Heaven and the 30th anniversary release of the album.


Odessey and Oracle was released in the UK on 19 April 1968 and in the US in June. The single "Time of the Season" became a surprise hit in early 1969, and Columbia (in the US) re-released Odessey in February, with a different album cover that severely cropped the original artwork.

American CBS boss Clive Davis initially decided not to release the album (Columbia had released a single "Care Of Cell 44" on Columbia 4-44363 on November 21, 1967 to complete indifference). However, at the urging of staff producer Al Kooper, the US CBS/Columbia Records label was eventually persuaded to release the album on their small Date Records subsidiary label. Kooper had picked up a copy of the album during a trip to London and, when he returned to America and played the album, loved it and believed it contained three hit singles. CBS chose to release "Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)" as the first single in the US, feeling that the song's anti-war theme would resonate with record-buyers due to the Vietnam War.[7] After its release, "Time of the Season" slowly gained popularity before finally hitting big on the US charts in 1969, by which time Rod Argent and Chris White were busy with their new band, Argent.

Reunion performances[]

Because the band split before the album was released, they never performed any of the songs onstage. However, due to the surprise success of "Time of the Season", several "fake" versions of The Zombies were created by unscrupulous promoters in 1969 to cash in on public demand to see and hear the band.[12]

The original five-piece line-up reformed briefly in 1997 for the launch party of the Zombie Heaven boxset. They performed "She's Not There" and "Time of the Season" at London's Jazz Café. In 2001, Blunstone and Argent resurrected The Zombies as a recording and touring unit with ex-Argent bass guitarist Jim Rodford, his son Steve Rodford on drums and Keith Airey on guitar. The Blunstone-Argent lineup toured for several years, performing a number of songs from the album. There was one final reunion of the original five members in 2004 at a benefit gig for Paul Atkinson, and though Atkinson was very ill, he insisted on performing with them. Atkinson died later that year.

In March 2008, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the album's release, the four surviving members performed Odessey and Oracle in its entirety for three shows at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in London. They were joined by Keith Airey, Darian Sahanaja and various friends. The Zombies were insistent on recreating the sound as authentically as possible, hence the extra singers, Sahanaja filling in keyboard and Mellotron parts via use of a Memotron, and Argent himself playing an original mellotron on a couple of numbers. Argent also tracked down a Victorian pump organ dating from 1896 so they could recreate White's "Butcher's Tale", the original organ having long since been given away or sold by White.

The 40th anniversary concerts were sold out and critically acclaimed. One of the shows was recorded, filmed, and released on CD and DVD as Odessey and Oracle (Revisited). The reunion was so successful that they decided to reprise the show on a short four-date British tour in April 2009, playing in Glasgow, Bristol, Manchester, and ending on 25 April at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, which Argent stated would be the very last time the album would be performed on stage, at least until the songs are reverted to public domain. This ended up not being true as the surviving members once again reunited to perform the album in its entirety across America in 2015.

In 2016, the band announced that they would do a final tour to commemorate the album's 50th anniversary the following year. In addition, they are also planning a coffee-table book about the making of the album.[13]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg[14]
BBC Music(very favourable)[3]
Robert ChristgauTemplate:Rating-Christgau[15]
PopMatters(very favourable)[17]
Rolling Stone(favourable)[18]

While the album was received indifferently upon its release, it has since gone on to gain a cult following and become a critically respected album. In their retrospective review, Bruce Eder of AllMusic gave the album five stars out of five, calling it "one of the flukiest (and best) albums of the 1960s, and one of the most enduring long-players to come out of the entire British psychedelic boom".[14] BBC Music wrote "To this day it remains a word-of mouth obscurity. But by those who know it's held in such regard that the remaining living members of the band are to perform it in its entirety this year, on the fortieth anniversary of its release."[3] wrote "Odessey and Oracle, even by today's standards, is impossible to top."[19]


  • Paul Weller of The Jam has often named the album as one of his all-time favourites, citing in particular its 'autumnal' sound. In 2008, he included "Beechwood Park" in a playlist compiled for a magazine and has also covered "Time of the Season" during various radio sessions.
  • In 2012, Rolling Stone placed Odessey at number 100 in its "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list.[20]
  • Stylus magazine placed it at number 196 on their "Top 101–200 Favourite Albums Ever" list.[21]
  • The Guardian placed it at number 77 on their "Alternative Top 100 Albums Ever" list.[22]
  • Mojo magazine placed it at number 97 in their "100 Greatest Albums Ever Made" list.[23]
  • NME placed it at number 32 on their "100 Greatest British Albums Ever!" list.[24]
  • Q magazine placed it at number 26 on their "50 Best British Albums Ever!" list.[25]
  • Included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[26]

The first song on the album, "Care of Cell 44", has been covered by a number of artists including Elliott Smith and Of Montreal. "This Will Be Our Year" has also been covered by multiple artists including OK Go, The Mynabirds, Dear Nora, Foo Fighters and The Avett Brothers.[27] Both songs were also included on Pitchfork Media's list "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s."[28][29]

Track listing[]

Side A
1."Care of Cell 44"Rod Argent3:57
2."A Rose for Emily"Argent2:19
3."Maybe After He's Gone"Chris White2:34
4."Beechwood Park"White2:44
5."Brief Candles"White3:30
6."Hung Up on a Dream"Argent3:02
Side B
8."I Want Her, She Wants Me"Argent2:53
9."This Will Be Our Year"White2:08
10."Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)"White2:48
11."Friends of Mine"White2:18
12."Time of the Season"Argent3:34
Total length:35:18


The Zombies
  • Colin Blunstone – lead vocals
  • Rod Argent – organ; piano; harpsichord; Mellotron; vocals (lead vocals on "I Want Her, She Wants Me" and the first verse of "Brief Candles")
  • Paul Atkinson – guitar; backing vocals on "Changes"
  • Chris White – bass guitar; vocals (lead vocals on "Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)" and the second verse of "Brief Candles")
  • Hugh Grundy – drums; backing vocals on "Changes"
Production team
  • Geoff Emerick – engineering
  • Peter Vince – engineering
  • Jools DeVere – design


  1. PopMatters
  2. 2.0 2.1 R. Unterbeger, "The Zombies", Allmusic, retrieved 3 July 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Chris Jones (22 February 2012). "The Zombies Odessey & Oracle- 40th Anniversary Edition Review". BBC Music. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  4. The RS 500 Greatest Albums of All Time : Rolling Stone.
  5. Zombie Heaven booklet pages 35-36, 49-52, released on Big Beat in 1997
  6. Johansen, Claes (1 September 2001). The Zombies: hung up on a dream : a biography 1962–1967. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 174. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Track, Central (12 March 2013). "Back From the Dead (2013)". Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  8. Kevin Ryan; Brian Kehew (2006). Recording The Beatles. Curvebender. ISBN 0-9785200-0-9.
  9. Johansen, Claes (1 September 2001). The Zombies: hung up on a dream : a biography 1962–1967. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 201. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  10. Adam Hansen (25 November 2010). Shakespeare and Popular Music. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-4411-2698-6.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Lynch, Joe (21 July 2015). "Exclusive: The Zombies Reteam With 'Odessey & Oracle' Illustrator for New Album Cover Art". Billboard. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  12. "Imposter Zombies Page". Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Bruce Eder. "Odessey and Oracle". Allmusic. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  15. Robert Christgau (1998). "The Zombies". Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  16. Liam Singer (1 August 2004). "The Zombies: Odessey and Oracle". Pitchfork. Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  17. Dominic Umile (1 September 2004). "The Zombies: Odessey & Oracle". PopMatters. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  18. Album, Paul (1 February 1969). "Records". Rolling Stone. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc.
  19. Jeff Terich (22 September 2004). "Zombies". Treble. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  20. "80 | Odessey and Oracle – The Zombies". Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  21. "Top 100–200 Favourite Albums Ever: The Stylus Magazine List". Stylus Magazine. 22 March 2004. Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  22. "Alternative Top 100 Albums Ever". Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  23. "MOJO: THE 100 GREATEST ALBUMS EVER MADE". Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  24. "NME 100 Greatest British Albums Ever! – 2006". Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  25. "50 best British albums ever!". Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  26. "1001 Albums You Must Hear – 2008 Edition". Retrieved 10 February 2012.
  27. G, David (12 January 2011). "Happy Anniversary, Noise Narcs!". Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  28. "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s - Pitchfork". Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  29. "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s - Page 3 - Pitchfork". Retrieved 6 June 2016.

External links[]

Template:The Zombies